A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

more discount shopping – this time a la Turque

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 17, 2008

Given the sagging economy, perhaps the sudden focus on discount shopping should be no surprise. After yesterday’s post, I found myself reading the New Yorker on the subway – and reading another article about the city’s off-price options.

Some (Loehmann’s, Filene’s Basement, Century 21) are old friends to me. But some – like an East Village shop called Gabay’s – were totally new:


A Turk, I thought. As Kheireddine pointed out the other day, “Turk” was frequently the designation given in Europe and South America – and, to a slightly lesser degree, in the United States – to Lebanese and Syrians who came from the Ottoman Empire.

I bet he was really Lebanese, I thought. And since Sam Gabay came through Ellis Island, I knew how to find him: the online search engine at EllisIsland.org. I love this search engine – what a gift to Americans, to have such a treasure trove of immigration history available to anyone with a working Internet connection.

And when I searched, I found … nothing! Well: I found that no one named Gabay (or Gaby, or Gabey – sometimes you have to try alternate spellings, to account for immigration officers’ and immigrants’ differing ideas about how to spell names in Roman script) immigrated through Ellis Island in 1905.

But I did find that a teenager named Israel Gabay did arrive from Istanbul in 1906 – which might have become 1905 over years of family retellings. And Israel might have been Anglicized to “Sam”.

Between 1900 and 1925, 30-40 Gabays arrived to the United States from “Turkey” and/or “Greece”. I’m guessing that they were all cousins to one degree or another, and that their emigration was inspired first by tightening economic times in the Ottoman Empire, and then by the dislocations involved in the formation of two new nation-states: Turkey and Greece, each of which had a particular religious identity that might have seemed less welcoming to Jews than the multi-faith Ottoman Empire had.

In any case, I was wrong: Sam Gabay does not appear to have been at all Lebanese. But his story, and the story of all his Gabay cousins, was a very nice reminder of the interesting paths by which so many immigrants came to the United States.

You can read about Gabay’s history on the store’s website, here. (In fact, given how closely the article echoes the information on the website, I would say that its author was also a site visitor.) And you can shop there seven days a week, from 10:00 AM until 7:00 pm. See you there!


3 Responses to “more discount shopping – this time a la Turque”

  1. Printperson said

    Funny you should write about the Eminents, and I should read the post just now. I just wrote an exhibition label for a photograph given memory of them.

  2. intlxpatr said

    Love this serendipitous research. Isn’t all the information available amazing – and wonderful?

  3. Khalti, I am grateful every single day for all the wonderful information that the Internet makes available. It means that my many questions are answered – and that in finding the answers I often discover even more interesting new questions to ask!

    Printperson, too funny! Is this for the “Midwest Regionalism” exhibit?

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